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Facing a maximum of 93 days in jail for drunk driving, Rima Fakih, the first Arab-American to be crowned Miss USA, received a lesser punishment. The now 26-year old beauty queen was sentenced to six months of probation, 20 hours of community service and was ordered to pay $600 in fines and costs. Fakih also must attend an alcohol safety class.

Fakih, a Michigan resident whose family hails from Lebanon, made international headlines in 2010 when she purportedly became the first Arab American and Muslim woman to win the Miss USA title, even though pageant organizers would not officially confirm the claim, citing insufficient records from previous competitions.

Watch video of Fakih’s crowning:

Fakih pleaded no contest last month to driving under the influence when she was pulled over in December of last year.  Two police breathalyzer tests put her blood alcohol content at twice the legal limit, and an open champagne bottle was reportedly found behind the driver’s seat of her 2011 Jaguar.

At sentencing, Fakih expressed relief at having avoided jail time, acknowledging that she had “made mistakes.”

The DUI arrest and sentence are not the first scandal for the former Miss USA. Shortly after the 2010 pageant she faced calls for her to be stripped of her crown after images surfaced of her having been part of a “pole-dancing” competition at a Michigan strip club in 2007. However, she retained her title after her detractors failed to establish that Fakih had removed any of her clothes at any point during the event.

Fakih’s win in the 2010 Miss America pageant was met with mixed reactions by members of the Arab American community. Some viewed it as a liberating moment for a minority still stigmatized by the 9/11 terror attacks. Others, particularly devout Muslims, accused her of defiling the religion, saying that no woman posing in a bikini can represent Islam.

In an interview with VOA, Fakih countered by saying that, at least for her family, the two are not mutually exclusive. “I don’t define myself around religion, and my family does not as well.  We are Muslim. We respect the religion. We might not be as strict, but we’re not defined by religion…”


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